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- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 9. - 10/10 -


She would there have a pleasant house, a palm-garden, and gifts from the congregation which would secure not merely her own maintenance, but that of her adopted children.

Hannah was bound to Alexandria by many ties; in the first place she clung to the poor and sick, many of whom had grown very dear to her, and how many girls who had gone astray had she rescued from evil in the factory alone! She begged for a short time for reflection, and this was granted to her. By the fifteenth of March she was to decide, but by the fifth she had already made up her mind, for while Hannah was in the papyrus- factory Antinous had succeeded in getting into Paulina's garden shortly before sunset and in stealing close up to Hannah's house. Mary again observed him as he approached and signed to him to go, in her usual pleasant way; but the Bithynian was more excited than usual; he seized her hand and clasped her with urgent warmth as he implored her to be merciful. She endeavored at once to free herself, but he would not let her go, but cried in coaxing tones:

"I must see her and speak to her to-day, dear, good Mary, only this once!" And before she could prevent it he had kissed her forehead and had flown into the house to Selene. The little hunchback did not know what had happened to her; confused and almost paralyzed by conflicting feelings she stood shame-faced, gazing at the ground. She felt that something quite extraordinary had happened to her, but this wonderful something radiated a dazzling splendor, and since this had risen for her, for poor Mary, a feeling of pride quite new to her mingled with the shame and indignation that filled her soul. She needed a few minutes to collect herself and to recover a sense of her duty, and those few minutes were made good use of by Antinous.

He flew with long steps into the room in which, on that never-to-be- forgotten night, he had laid Selene on the couch, and even at the threshold he called her by her name. She started and laid aside the book out of which she was reading to her blind brother. He called a second time, beseechingly. Selene recognized him and asked calmly:

"Do you want me, or dame Hannah?"

"You, you!" he cried passionately. "Oh Selene, I pulled you out of the water, and since that night I have never ceased to think of you and I must die for love of you. Have your thoughts never, never met mine on the way to you? Are you still and always as cold, as passive as you were then when you belonged half to life and half to death? For months have I prowled round this house as the shade of a dead man haunts the spot where he had left all that was dear to him on earth, and I have never been able to tell you what I feel for you?" As he spoke the lad fell on the ground before her and tried to clasp her knees; but she said reproachfully:

"What does all this mean? Stand up and compose yourself."

"Oh! let me, let me--" he besought her. "Do not be so cold and so hard; have pity on me and do not reject me!"

"Stand up," repeated the girl. "I will certainly not reproach you--I owe you thanks on the contrary."

"Not thanks, but love--a little love is all I ask."

"I try to love all men," replied the girl, "and so I love you because you have shown me very much kindness."

"Selene, Selene!" he exclaimed in joyful triumph. He threw himself again at her feet and passionately seized her right hand; but hardly had he taken it in his own when Mary, scarlet with agitation, rushed into the room. In a husky voice, full of hatred and fury, she commanded him to leave the house at once, and when he attempted again to besiege her ear with entreaties she cried out:

"If you do not obey I will call the men in to help us, who are out there attending to the flowers. I ask you, will you obey or will you not?"

"Why are you so cruel, Mary?" asked the blind boy. "This man is good and kind and tells Selene he loves her."

Antinous pointed to the child with an imploring gesture but Mary was already by the window and was raising her hand to her mouth to make her call heard.

"Don't, don't," cried Antinous. "I am going at once."

And he went slowly and silently towards the door, still gazing at Selene with passionate ardor; then he quitted the room groaning with shame and disappointment, though still with a look of radiant pride as though he had achieved some great deed. In the garden he was met by Hannah, who immediately hastened with accelerated steps to her own house where she found Mary sobbing violently and dissolved in tears.

The widow was soon informed of all that had occurred in her absence, and an hour later she had announced to the bishop that she would accept the call to Besa and was ready to start for Upper Egypt.

"With your foster-children?" asked Eumenes.

"Yes. It was indeed Selene's most earnest wish to be baptized by you, but as a year of probation is required--"

"I will perform the rite to-morrow morning."

"To-morrow, Father?"

"Yes, Sister, in all confidence. She buried the old man in the waves of the sea, and before we were her teachers she had gone through the school and discipline of life. While she was yet a heathen she had taken up her cross and proved herself as faithful as though she were a child of the Lord. All that was lacking to her--Faith, Love and Hope--she has found under your roof. I thank thee for this soul thou hast found Sister, in the name of the Lord."

"Not I, not I," said the widow. "Her heart was frozen, but it is not I but the innocent faith of the blind child that has melted it."

"She owes her salvation to him and to you," replied the bishop, "and they both shall be baptized together. We will give the lovely boy the name of the fairest of the disciples, and call him John. Selene for the future, if she herself likes it, shall be known as Martha."

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

If one only knew who it is all for Love laughs at locksmiths Wide world between the purpose and the deed


The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 9. - 10/10

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